Bellingham Resident Helped Build Unique Relationship with East Goshen Elementary School
Students at East Goshen Elementary School recently had their artwork prominently displayed at the Nancy Rogal Memorial Art Gallery at Bellingham Retirement Community in East Goshen for what has become a tradition for the school's young artists.
The gallery is located in a hallway just off the front lobby at Bellingham. The vibrant original artwork displayed makes life a little brighter for residents.
The school's involvement with Bellingham began eleven years ago when art teacher Tracy McCloskey had her students create holiday cards for residents. The collaboration grew after Rogal approached McCloskey in 2014 with an idea.
"Nancy tracked me down and asked if we would want to have a small art show of student work on display at Bellingham for a couple of months. Since them, we have done a display every December and January," said McCloskey.
Rogal, who resided at the senior living facility with her husband William until they were tragically murdered by their son in 2018, was instrumental in setting up the gallery.
"My mother was a lifelong artist," said Sylvia Pope, Rogal's daughter. "When she moved to Bellingham, she was battling stage four breast cancer and went into remission. As she was recuperating, she looked around and decided that the hallway was the perfect place for an art gallery. She lobbied management for its creation, and they finally agreed. The residents immediately took to it; they thought it was fabulous to have the opportunity to enjoy some artwork."
Collaborating with East Goshen Elementary School was a natural progression for Rogal, who, according to Pope, spent a lot of time at the Chester County Art Association running after school art programs and summer art programs.
"She really wanted everybody to reach their full potential," said Pope. "She introduced kids to all sorts of different media so that if perhaps they weren't good with a paintbrush and paint, they could excel at other techniques. She thought everybody had artistic potential and wanted to cultivate that."
Seeing their artwork on display gives the students at East Goshen Elementary School a sense of pride and accomplishment.
"I feel proud that my artwork is at Bellingham and I am thankful that I get to share it with other people," said fifth-grader Hannah Yearing.
Fifth-grader Brianna Reidy added, "I like that my family was able to come over and see my artwork on display. We have gone to my sister's art shows in the past. It was fun that I got a chance to be in an art show."
Mrs. McCloskey is thankful that Rogal reached out all those years ago.
"Nancy was the reason the entire gallery at Bellingham was created. She was a Chester County artist. I now have one of Nancy's original paintings hanging in the East Goshen art room," said McCloskey.
"The relationship between East Goshen and Bellingham is truly special for the residents and the students," added McCloskey. "In addition to the student art show and the holiday cards, fifth-graders visit and play games with their Bellingham friends for a community outreach event. I grew up in West Chester, and now being a teacher in the district I attended as a student, I feel a real sense of community. I feel like everything has come around full circle."
Nancy Rogal grew up in Scotia, New York. She graduated from Skidmore College in 1952 with a degree in fine arts. From 1952-1957 Rogal worked for the Schenectady Museum (now the Museum of Innovation & Science) in Schenectady, New York. She left her position as an exhibit curator after becoming pregnant.
"The tasks of raising a family overtook her ability to devote a lot of time to art, but nonetheless, wherever she went, she either joined an art association or started one," said Pope.
The Rogal family settled in Chester County in 1969 after relocating several times due to William Rogal's employment as a mechanical engineer with the gas turbine division of Westinghouse. Her love of art led her to work with the Chester County Art Association. In 2008, the association honored Rogal with a retrospective show titled For the Love of Lake George, which featured original paintings of her favorite place, Lake George, New York.
"My mother and father lived half of the year on Lake George at the family home. She would go hiking and take a lot of photographs, and then paint from those photographs. She got involved in land conservation efforts because of her passion for the lake and art. My fondest childhood memories are of our time on Lake George."
Pope said her mother was a patron of her fellow Chester County artists.
"I remember one summer she attended the Yellow Springs Art Show, and she badly wanted to buy a painting by Jon Redmond. She split up the cost the painting into four equal paintings - she wrote one check and split the rest using three credit cards," laughed Pope.
William Rogal was very supportive of his wife's art career.
"They were an interesting match of a logical, numbers person and an artistic person,” said Pope.
William and Nancy were married for 42 years.
"They were good parents," said Pope. "They were very helpful, and they wanted all of us to be successful in life. They were always helping us if we needed help. They were there for us all the time."
The staff and residents at Bellingham held a dedication ceremony to honor Nancy and William Rogal and her efforts to bring art to the community. The ceremony was held in November of 2018 shortly after their deaths. The dedication in the gallery reads - "You are the sunshine and the light,” a phrase often spoken by Nancy.